Here is her story....
At present, I am a 35 year old single mother of two and a 13 year breast cancer survivor. I have an amazing 17 year old son and a magnificent 10 year old daughter. I reside on the north side of Chicago.
The news came to me 13 years ago this October. I felt a lump and went to the doctor. I was then scheduled for an ultrasound and immediately had a mammogram to follow because of the findings. The Radiologist, along with my gynecologist (via a phone conference), broke the news to me, “it looks like cancer”. I was crushed! I was 22 years old with a 4 year old son at home and just a year into my career as an x-ray technologist. I walked out of the room, got dressed, and went home. I was stunned into silence from the news. When I got home, I cried and cried.
The next morning I woke up and moved right into action. Scheduling doctor’s appointments, further tests, and my first surgery (a lumpectomy) was on my “to do” list. I went into auto pilot to just get a resolution to my problem. All my appointments were done and my surgery was performed on November 24th 2000. I woke in a dazed state from surgery and my surgeon broke the news, “Tracy it’s malignant”. When you first hear the news of cancer, it sounds like a death sentence. I again went home and cried. I allowed the tears to flow for that day and the next, but then that was the end of it. I am not allowing this bump in the road to bring me down! I am not allowing cancer to beat me and so I didn’t.
The next nine months of my life was a whirlwind of action. I began the roller coaster ride with an axillary node dissection surgery to see if the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. Thankfully it hadn’t. I had my full diagnosis and prognosis at that point. I was in stage I breast cancer with a 2cm lump and an aggressive tumor of 3, which meant it was rapid in its growth and spread quickly. I am so thankful my cancer was caught when it was. I had three more surgeries that year, with six rounds of Chemotherapy a sixteen week time frame, and six weeks of Radiation therapy to follow.
I decided in July of 2001 while I was finishing up my treatments for Radiation to have genetic testing performed. I was so young when I got my diagnosis, even though cancer doesn’t discriminate by any means of the word, I wondered if possibly there was another explanation. As it turned out, I did have BRCA II, an inherited genetic mutation that was hidden within the men of my father’s side. Another worry then had come to me and an even scarier thought; the chance for reoccurrence almost triples. It was devastating news. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction. However, my surgery needed to be put on hold. I became pregnant in May of 2002; a real miracle considering all that my body had been through the year before. I delivered in February of 2003 and allowed my body a year of healing before going through with the mastectomies.
In June of 2004, at 25, I had the 10 hour surgery of removing my breast tissue and reconstructing my body with my own tissues, the mastectomy and reconstruction. There was another nine weeks of recovering ahead for me. I wanted the surgery though, to survive, to be there for my children, to be there for my family and friends, I wanted to live my life!
My survival story isn’t what I just told you, that was just the background to it. The real story lies within my day to day life. It is within my children’s eyes and their laughter, it is within my mother’s and father’s compassion and unconditional ways, it is within my brothers and sister-in-laws protecting arms and helping hands, it is within my family and extended families love and wisdom, it’s within my friend’s care and support. Without all of those pieces to this puzzle my survival wouldn’t exist. Together as a whole they help me to survive, help me to be the best me, help me want to push forward every day to live my life! So, yeah I am a cancer survivor, yet more importantly I’ve learned to love life and believe in living life to the fullest!
As you know my Mother had a double masectomy on 11/5/13, almost a year ago. This month my Aunt Sandy is a 5 year breast cancer survivor. My Grandmother Marie passed from breast cancer 2 years ago. This October to celebrate breast cancer survivor's I wanted to give away a free photoshoot to a survivor.
I enjoyed all of the stories and photos that were sent our way.
Kate Johnson will be beautifying Tracy for this shoot next month.... we can't wait to share some of Tracy's images, we are so excited to be working with her!